Sunday, 2 November 2014

Interstellar Fever: Part 3

Interstellar movie release is less than a week away and this is the last article in the “Interstellar Fever” series. The fever appears to be beyond cure now, I would like to be sedated in such a way that when I wake up – I wake up to interstellar.

We have already taken a glance at the theories and logistics involved in the concept of interstellar travel in the previous articles. In this article we will take a look at the very complicated theory of “time dilation”.

Time dilation is a phenomenon due to which a person travelling close to speed of light would age slower than a stationary person on earth. There are only two known factors that can slow the time down, one is relative velocity and the second is gravity. And they both are the same thing, think about it, rate of velocity is acceleration and gravity is acceleration too.

A simple representation of time dilation:

The blue clock is stationary while the brown one is travelling at a velocity close to speed of light(c).

A fact:
Our astronauts at ISS (International Space Station) age 0.014 seconds lesser than us each year and they experience time dilation due to both the factors, i.e. relative velocity and gravity. For astronauts relative velocity works in favour of time dilation, while gravity does not; because astronauts experience least gravitational pull from earth at such great distance. In a nutshell, great acceleration slows the time down for the one accelerating/moving at a great relative velocity. (With respect to a stationary observer)

Okay, but how?

Believe me, the theoretical explanation to the effect of time dilation is too complicated for laymen like us. It involves a lot of formulas and considerations of which we are really better off. Hence, I would like to explain the concept of time dilation the exact way Einstein observed it (to be precise, he observed relativity but dilation is also the same). The greatest mind observed the phenomenon in the simplest way (which is why he had the greatest mind).

Apparently, Einstein was travelling in a tram when he happened to take a glance at a big clock on some building. Right at this moment he realized that if he traveled at the speed of light, time would stand still for him and it will not move forward.


We all know how light reflects against an object and travels into our eye in order to make us see the object. If Einstein traveled along with the same ray that reflected from the clock and made a picture in his eye, he would always have that particular image of the clock in his eye. The time would stand still for him. This is how he realized the theory of relativity. A simple moment of genius imagination, simply genius.

The seed of that impeccable imagination grew into a formula which determines time dilation for us today, it goes like this:

So, if a person traveled to a star 4 light years away at a velocity of 0.8c, he would get back to earth in 6 years while on earth 10 years will have passed in the same time. The guy will be 4 years younger, isn’t that amazing?

Wait! Why is Yusuf at my door?

Looks like my sedative is here. See you at the movie.

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